The recent WSJ op-ed by John Chambers (CEO Cisco) and Myron Ullman (CEO JCPenny) is interesting, but largely not compelling. What the article does do is indicate (1) that patent litigation is the monetization avenue being used by non-practicing patent holders and (2) that it is pretty clear that manufacturers and retailers would be better off (at least in the short term) without being charged with patent infringement.
The core of their argument is here:
A 2012 study by Boston University researchers estimated that companies spent upward of $29 billion a year defending patent lawsuits, and the problem has not let up. According to RPX Corp., more than 3,600 companies and named defendants were sued by so-called patent-assertion entities in 2014, triple the number in 2006. Patent-assertion entities—aka nonpracticing entities, or as some would call them, trolls—that own patents but do not make products or sell services based on them file more than 60% of patent litigation in the U.S.
A civil lawsuit generally comes about based upon a failure of the parties to negotiate a just solution. Of course, for any given lawsuit, we don’t know beforehand whether it is the plaintiff or the defendant who is being more unreasonable.
The op-ed suggests that the plaintiffs are to blame for filing the lawsuits, but there is also a strongly compelling case for arguing that the defendants are to blame for refusing to deal and instead fighting every lawsuit tooth-and-nail. When reach a point where out-of-litigation resolutions are rare, we should recognize that it is a systemic problem. And, at this point – where the primary complaint is high litigation costs – the solution is not to favor one side or the other, but instead to look for systemic changes that substantially decrease the cost of resolution.
Gene Quinn provides his take on the op-ed at IP Watchdog.